Tuesday’s sweltering walkabout

On Tuesday, the mental pressure to go for “one of those walks” finally overwhelmed my ability to resist – even though it was still registering 40ºC (104ºF for you old folks). Tracey questioned my sanity given my tolerance for heat, but sometimes, I just have to walk. I may blame The Oatmeal’s comic about why he runs as the last straw – read it all, it’s worth it.

Commonwealth Air Force Training Ottawa Memorial at SunsetI left home at 7:25 PM, heading north along King Edward up to the National Research Council’s property and crossed the two bridges over the Rideau Falls, stopping to take a photo of the Commonwealth Air Force Training Ottawa Monument as the sun set behind it.

From there, I got onto the Rideau River Eastern Pathway and headed south. This pathway is one of my favourite routes in the city – so much to see.

About ten minutes along the pathway, I had a half-dozen dragonflies (yes, even a pair of Darners – but I couldn’t tell which specific species) flying CAP (combat air patrols) around me, clearing my way.

Watching the dance that dragonflies perform while hunting prey is downright amazing.

Typically, when I’m out on one of these long walks, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, pausing as needed. Yesterday, I listened to music from my rated tunes playlist, and pondered life, the universe and everything. I use walks like this as a chance to chew on ideas or problems that don’t usually get solved when I’m in the shower.

A major project is coming close to wrapping up, and it was time to ponder next steps. I’ve started researching a possibility, but I’m having difficulty finding good offline references that aren’t in old German or other languages I don’t speak.

Crossing the Rideau riverSometime around here, I hit Bank street and decided I deserved an ice cream cone. The universe disagreed with me, as the line up was (obviously on a hot day like that) out the door, so I went to plan B – walk across the street to Tim Hortons for a large chocolate milk, which I pretty much drank in one gulp, snagged a shot from the bridge, then returned heading south along the path.

As the sky darkened, the dragonflies retired for the night, and the bats came out. Bats tend to fly higher up, in the treetops, but they will swoop down in clearer areas. If I pause the tunes, take my headphones off, and listen carefully, I can sometimes hear the echolocation clicking they make if they’re close enough.

Bats have been demonized mammals for centuries, but are simply amazing creatures. Flying in the treetops at dusk is difficult at best – heck, even just trying to follow a single bat as it swoops around is hard – but is well worth the effort. I’ve almost never seen a bat at rest but as flying creatures, they rank up there with the Snowbirds for abilities to impress.

One of the reasons I walk instead of cycle or run (oh, the days when I ran) is the pace. I get to look at the world around me – people-watch, the animals, the greenery when I’m not in some kind of a hurry to get to my next appointment. Cycling, the route would have taken me a bit over an hour, and I would have missed so much as, for example, the bats were seen about two hours in, and I would have been busy watching the path instead of the sky.

Then the magic appeared, faintly at first. Little moving flickers of light at a distance, then as I continued, closer. Fireflies! No, not the spacecraft, but that would have been cool too. Dozens upon dozens of fireflies. Watching them always reminds me of that line from the opening monologue from season two of Babylon 5 “…A shining beacon in space, all alone in the night…”.

Watching the fireflies actually slowed my walking to a near-stop, but onward I went. I came across two smaller groups of fireflies as I walked, each about half a kilometre apart. Curious.

Once I reached Hog’s Back Falls (that cantina place is *never* open, it seems), I turned south on the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway which was relatively devoid of humans until I got to the Hartwell’s Locks at Carleton U, crossing the locks to the Rideau Canal *western* pathway, and through the quiet Arboretum, rounding Dow’s Lake and heading back downtown.

Walks like these are not only time “off” for me, but they’re personal tests of willpower, to keep putting one foot in front of the other for hours. Sometimes, I get lost in the sheer act mechanical actions of walking, akin to how you seize control of your breathing from your brainstem.

This is especially helpful when my body hits the wall (this day, it was about 18 KM in) and lasts for about a kilometre or so. Once I’m past it, my brain can merrily go about it’s business of thinking about whatever needs to be on my mind. I swear some days, I’m not in charge of what goes on in there.

Corkstown BridgeOnce I arrived at Pretoria Bridge, I crossed back over to the Rideau Canal Eastern pathway, under the 417, past the Corkstown bridge, skirting the market to home.

Largely, other than a surprising amount of vehicular traffic, there was almost no one out.

Shortly after midnight, I arrived home, having covered almost exactly 26 kilometres, burning two thousand calories (~1,600 if you take the chocolate milk into account), a few minutes shy of five hours after I left.

The temperature had dropped from a humidex of 40ºC to 35ºC – both of which are well beyond my normal comfortable operating temperatures (23ªC or less is ideal). I feel that I managed the challenge of distance and heat quite well.

How was your Monday?